TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Cameron Kinley, an undrafted rookie cornerback from the United States Naval Academy, signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in May. Less than one month later, the Navy has denied his request to play in the National Football League.

Kinley asked to delay his commission to pursue a professional football career, which other players have successfully done in the past, but he did not receive the necessary approval.

The agency that represents Kinley, Divine Sports & Entertainment, released the following statement.

“Due to unexplained reasons, Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker has denied Kinley’s request to delay his commission. The U.S. Navy is also denying Kinley the opportunity to appeal this decision. Denying Cameron a fair process will also deny him the dream of playing in the NFL.”

The co-founder of the agency, Ryan Williams-Jenkins, added a personal message.

“As a Naval Academy graduate, football player, and decorated combat veteran I understand
Cameron’s commitment,” wrote Williams-Jenkins. “I also understand there are ways he can fulfill his commitment while representing the Navy and playing professional sports. I played with three-time Super Bowl Champion Joe Cardona, who still serves our country as a Navy reservist. If there is a directive and precedent allowing other service academy athletes to pursue this opportunity, what makes Cameron different? It is important to note that this could have a long-term impact on his mental health going forward. He wants to fulfill both of his childhood dreams, playing in the NFL and honorably serving his country.”

Kinley is seeking assistance from Sen. Marsha Blackburn. He wrote her a letter on June 2 explaining the situation.

“I do not know why my request was denied,” wrote Kinley, “as I have received no written explanation for this decision.”

You can read the letter in its entirety here:

Kinley is not allowed to attend the Buccaneers mandatory mini-camp, which starts on Tuesday at the team facility.

He shared a message on Twitter on Monday afternoon stating, in part, “I am very aware of the commitment that I made to service when I first arrived at the United States Naval Academy. I look forward to my career as a naval officer in the information warfare community. However, I am deserving of the opportunity to live out another one of my life-long dreams before fulfilling my service requirement.”

“I have hopes that this situation will soon be overturned,” wrote Kinley, “and that I can get back to competing on the field and representing the U.S. Navy.”

A spokesperson for the Secretary of the Navy released a statement on Monday following the announcement

Admission to the Naval Academy is an extensive and competitive process. The mission of the Naval Academy is to develop young men and women to commission as officers in the Navy or Marine Corps. When students accept admission and continue their education in this program, there is an understanding and acknowledgment that they will upon graduation be commissioned. Every Midshipman attends on the same terms and each has the same responsibility to serve. Exceptions to that commitment to serve have been rightfully rare. Following discussions with senior Department of Navy leadership and in accordance with existing Department of Defense policy, acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker, declined to forward requests from recent Naval Academy graduates to the Secretary of Defense, seeking to delay their commissions.

Spokesperson for the Secretary

The Buccaneers released a statement following the news on Monday:

“Cameron Kinley is an exceptional young man and a shining example of the type of high-character individuals that make our nation’s military the most elite in the world. We appreciate and support the United States Naval Academy’s position with regards to Cameron’s fulfillment of his post-graduate service commitment and remain hopeful that he will one day have an opportunity to also fulfill his dreams of playing professional football.”  

Tampa Bay Buccaneers spokesperson

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